The artists who came together in the Blue Rider circle regarded art as a universal language. "The whole body of work we call art," they wrote, "knows neither borders nor nations but only humanity." However, as their imagination was constrained by the colonial global order before the First World War, they, like others, did not succeed in implementing an emancipatory praxis of art beyond national affiliations and traditional hierarchies and genres. Still, their credo implied that all cultural production was ultimately of equal rank, and this idea is at the heart of the Lenbachhaus's undertaking. Instead of staging the history of styles or aesthetics as a succession of expressions of rivaling tendencies, our exhibition will shed light on the development of collectives in their historical contexts, reconstructing their political agendas and visions both practicable and, in some instances, utopian. Traces of collective labor may be found in manifestos, exhibitions, periodicals, collaborative creations, newly founded schools, and agitation efforts. The period we have chosen, from around 1900 to 1970, spans both the inception of various modernization movements and, at its other end, processes of decolonization and the emergence of new nations.
Groups are propelled by steadfast loyalties and irreconcilable ruptures. Their dynamic is unpredictable: collaboration, discussions, conviviality, rivalry, friendship, open-mindedness, inclusion, dissociation, weariness, controversy, love, polemics, and enthusiasm are characteristic features of the lives of groups. They provide us with one possible model for an understanding of art that is not grounded in the individual: art does not come into being in a vacuum, it grows out of exchanges of ideas and social interactions.